- Director:Kevin Macdonald
- Cast:Jimmy Cliff, Ziggy Marley, Bob Marley
- Release Date:June 21, 2012
- Running time:145 minutes
- Film Worth:$17.00
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An impressively balanced and wholly compelling look at this fascinating reggae figurehead, which stands a cut above the average music doco.
Two-and-a-half hours is barely enough time to examine the many strands of Bob Marley's life, work and significance, but director, Kevin Macdonald (Touching The Void, The Last King Of Scotland), manages it impressively. It's all here, starting with the early years of poverty in rural Jamaica, and revelations about the father - an English marine - who Marley barely knew. Then there's the move to Kingston with his mother, to Delaware and back...and of course, the path from ska to reggae, the evolution of The Wailers' music, and their eventual snowballing international stardom. The final section is, inevitably, concerned with Marley's decline and death from cancer.
Many people who figured significantly in Marley's life are interviewed here, from his mother, widow and some of his children - he had eleven, from seven different relationships - to Island Records honcho, Chris Blackwell, and former Wailer, Bunny Livingston, who is particularly eloquent, and impresses with his evident lack of compromise. A lot of previously unseen footage is aired, including a quorum of live performances, most memorably the Zimbabwe independence concert and its chaotic, teargas-suffused outcome.
But no examination of Bob Marley could confine itself to music. Rastafarianism (and its bizarre preoccupation with Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie) figures prominently, as does politics - and indeed political violence. Marley tried to reconcile Jamaica's bitter political rivals, and his courage was undeniable. But so too were his flaws - from philandering to insensitive fatherhood - and fortunately, this film doesn't shy away from them. Marley kept some very heavy company too, and he could be maddeningly disingenuous. You needn't be a reggae fan to enjoy Marley. Despite its straightforward linear structure, it avoids all the pitfalls of cliched music docos, and it's a fascinating, absorbing - and well-nigh exhaustive - study of a pivotal and contradictory man.